Performance Piece: Unnatural

March 10, 2009

The transsexual body is an unnatural body. It is the product of medical science. It is a technological construction. It is flesh torn apart and sewn together again in a shape other than that in which it was born.

Susan Stryker

My body is not in the shape it was born in. It is several feet taller and weighs over ten times as much as it did when it came out of my mother’s womb. Its workings are the product of medical science–I suffered a life threatening illness at age eight and would almost certainly be dead were it not for antibiotics. My appearance, also, is a product of medicine–artificially altering my sex hormones. My parents, not wanting me to go bald before graduating from high school, paid for a mild anti-androgen to stop my hair loss when I was sixteen. I’m very thankful for that, though in retrospect I wish it had been a higher dose. At seventeen, my “flesh [was] torn apart and sewn together again in a shape other than that in which it was born” by doctors when I had my wisdom teeth removed. Furthermore, I have altered my body to meet oppressive societal demands which I internalized through mental illness. In fact, I still struggle with my eating habits.


8 Responses to “Performance Piece: Unnatural”

  1. jaywhatshisname said

    I guess I just don’t understand how bodies could be “unnatural”.

  2. Susan Stryker said

    Interesting reading–I think all embodiment is techno-cultural, always in transition, but in some cases this artifactuality is made monstrous. The question is who is served by that maneuver–who does it to whom, and why? Speaking back “as monstrous” from what has been “made monstrous” is part of the process of “revealing the seams and sutures” in us all, aiming for a possibility of dialog not structured by an implicit moral hierarchy between natural and unnatural. S

  3. Lynn said

    I don’t get what kind of a body would be “natural”.

  4. Cedar said


    I think we’re in agreement, I hope you didn’t take my quote of “My Words to Victor Frankenstein” as an indictment.

    (For context, I actually wrote this as the opening to a paper about trans re-visionings of medicine/how the ways that medicine gets practiced by/in the trans community enact a radical critique of the conventional structures of medicine (even if that critique isn’t theorized as such)–destabilizing the separations between trans medicine and other medicine was necessary to extend the critique to the overall structure of the medical establishment rather than just the ways that the trans section isn’t as good as the overall structure.)

  5. I think that’s very well put, Susan–but maybe I’m just partial to looking for the seams and the monstrous.

    Cedar, I really like this piece.

  6. […] Questioning Transphobia helped me a lot with all that crap, as well as Cedar’s piece, “Unnatural.” What struck me most is the alterations that Cedar mentioned, which had nothing to do with […]

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